Ray Lewis Helps Us Feel Good About Football

Ray Lewis Helps Us Feel Good About Football

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis’s looming retirement as a lovable football hero in good standing—a “cuddly warrior,” as I once called him—should give pause to all those inclined to prophesy imminent doom for the game he plays. Not that there aren’t plenty of reasons for N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell to be concerned about his ten-billion-dollar product. But a decade ago, Lewis—who could be out of football as soon as Sunday afternoon, when the Ravens play the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round of the playoffs—was a so-called “problem player,” a James Harrison precursor as a poster boy for unruly linebackers with checkered pasts—or worse. His arrest on two murder counts in the wake of a stabbing outside an Atlanta nightclub, in 2000, helped spur headlines and columns about what was supposedly the N.F.L.’s dangerous thug culture (the National Felons League, some called it), and about our moral culpability, as fans, in enabling such antisocial behavior. “Face it,” a columnist for the Allentown Morning Call wrote in 2001. “Ray Lewis is not a nice guy.”

 

 

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